The Zapotec Language Project is a collaboration between linguists at the University of California, Santa Cruz and members of the Zapotec language community. We work to understand, preserve, and strengthen the Zapotec varieties of the southeastern Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, Mexico, spoken in Santiago Laxopa and nearby towns. Our activities aim to develop knowledge about Zapotec and share this knowledge with the Zapotec community in the Californian diaspora as well as in Mexico.
In our academic research, we explore what Zapotec might reveal about humans' linguistic ability, investigating several different facets of its grammar, including its phonology (sound system), morphology (word formation processes), syntax (sentence structure), and semantics (meaning). In addition, in our psycholinguistic project, we seek to understand how Zapotec speakers understand sentences as they hear them. We work with native speakers of Zapotec from Santiago Laxopa, as well as the nearby towns of San Sebastian Guiloxi, and Santa María Yalina, both in California and in Oaxaca during an annual fieldwork trip.
We disseminate our findings for the Zapotec community and general public through an online dictionary and collection of oral narratives and other textual materials that are free and accessible to everyone. In addition, we facilitate monthly Zapotec language classes in Santa Cruz, as part of the Nido de Lenguas initiative in the Department of Linguistics. Finally, we make available all of the materials from our psycholinguistic studies available on our website for use by the community.
The Zapotec Language Project has received a range of intramural and extramural funding. It is currently supported by the Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz and grants from California Humanities and the National Science Foundation ("Animacy and resumption at the border of cognition and grammar").